July 20, 2014
Love is a Danger Thing Series
John O’Malley’s sister is missing. All the clues of her disappearance lead to Hayward County, Wisconsin and the crooks and questionable sheriff that reside there. Pretending to be one of them, John takes a job as bodyguard for the sheriff’s beautiful sister, Grace. It seems like the perfect way to investigate their crimes and corruption, but when someone threatens to kill Grace, the job proves harder than he thought. Is she an innocent witness to a crime, or just as guilty as everyone else?
Grace Sullivan just wanted a normal life: find a good man, get married and have a family. She has had enough of looking the other way while her brother hides behind his sheriff’s badge to conduct shady dealings. Hiring a gangster named John to watch her is the final straw. When a face from the past threatens her life, she is forced to put her life in John’s hands, but as time goes on, all she really wants is to be in the gangster’s arms.
“Why are you chasing me?” Her voice did not sound nearly as strong as she wanted it to be.
“Begging your pardon, miss, I wasn’t chasing you.” She looked again. He stood relaxed and leaning on one leg. His left hand tucked into a trouser pocket. A suit coat folded over his forearm. A shotgun in one hand and a gun holster looped around each shoulder. “Your brother sent me to make sure you made it home safely.”
“Why would he do that? I’ve walked home safely plenty of times by myself.” She gripped the stick even tighter.
“Not to worry you none, miss, but there has been word of some kidnappings farther south. I’m sure you are quite capable of taking care of yourself but that twig in your hand will not save you from a bad man with a big gun.”
“And how do I know you are not a bad man with a big gun?” Her eyes glared at the weapon in his hand.
He chuckled and kicked a rock to the side with his shoe. “I have a big gun, yes, but if I was a bad man you would not be still standing there asking that question.” He switched the shotgun to his other hand and motioned her forward. “Please come out. We need to get off this road and get you home.”
Grace looked both directions down the road before stepping cautiously from behind the tree, the club still clutched tightly in her hand behind her back and the basket in the other. “What was your name again, boy?” She puffed out her chest. Her chin lifted and she began to walk in the direction of home again.
“O’Malley, John O’Malley, miss, and I am no boy.” He grinned down at her and winked.
“That’s debatable. Real men don’t follow lone women on their walk home and frighten them to death.”
“I’m sorry I frightened you, Miss Sullivan. That was not my intention. Mr. Sullivan didn’t realize you were leaving town until it was too late. I said I would make sure you arrived in one piece."
Grace smirked. “I’ll have you know, Mr. O’Malley, I have made it home in one piece for many years without your help.” She didn’t know who to be angrier with, her brother for treating her like a child, or the man beside her.
“Here, let me carry that basket for you.” John reached to take it from her.
“It’s quite all right.” She eyed the shotgun in his hand. “It looks like you have enough to carry.”
“That’s where you’re mistaken.” His warm hand touched hers as he grabbed the handle of her wicker basket. The brief contact sent goose bumps up her arm. They each held tight to the handle as they walked. “My mother, God rest her soul, raised me to be a gentleman. A gentleman never lets a lady carry her burdens alone.”
“And what do you know of my burdens, Mr. O’Malley?” She challenged.
“I don’t, but I think for the time being,” he slowed and nodded ahead, “it might be best if you dropped that club you’re carrying and hold your basket yourself.” He released his hold on the basket and moved the shotgun back to his right hand.
Grace looked where he indicated and her step faltered. It was him. The man she recognized from dinner last night. The club slipped from her fingers and made a thud when it hit the dirt.
“Don’t worry,” John whispered in her ear, “I won’t let anything happen to you.”
The man leaned against his car, shaving wood with a knife. “Miss Sullivan, we meet again,” he called from ahead, not bothering to look in her direction. He’d been waiting for her. Grace and John said nothing as they approached, but the stranger continued to speak, “You know, I still can’t figure out where I know you from. As I told you, I never forget a face.” He stopped whittling and stood. “It will come to me.”
Grace could feel tension fill the man beside her. Not wanting things to get out of hand, she inhaled a deep breath and addressed the intruder, “I’m afraid it is as I told you last night. I seldom go anywhere, so you must surely have me confused with someone else.” Grace and John slowed their gait as they approached the car, but kept walking. She turned as they passed and walked backward a few steps. “By the way, sir, what is your name?” Grace inquired, as she moved.
“The name’s Ed. Eddie ‘The Knife’ Killian.” He removed his hat and bowed his head.
Grace shook her head. “No, sorry. It doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe you know my friend here?” She gestured an elegant hand at John. “His name is John, Johnnie ‘Big Gun’ O’Malley. Good day to you, Mr. Killian.” She tucked her hand in the crook of John’s elbow and kept walking.
The woman had spunk, that’s for sure. Her hand tightened in the crook of his arm, but she’d stood up to that man like he was a rude schoolboy. She was obviously more than just a pretty face. John looked back to make sure the man wasn’t following. Good. Killian started his car and was heading toward town.
“You can relax. He’s going.” John reassured. “Friend of yours?”
“Hardly.” She turned her head to watch the retreating car. “He was at the house last night and insists that we are acquainted.” Her fingers still gripped his arm.
“Did he do something to upset you? Because if he did...” John stopped and looked at her pale face.
“No. It was nothing.” She dropped her hand from his arm and started walking.
“Are you sure? Maybe we need to tell Sheriff Sullivan about this.” He tried to retrieve her basket again.
“No. Please.” Her voice trembled, but was firm. “I don’t want to cause any trouble. My brother has enough things to worry about without dealing with some man that obviously thinks I am someone else.” Her blue eyes threatened tears. For a second, he had the urge take her in his arms and tell her everything would be okay, but things weren’t okay. She was not his girl and none of his concern. This was just a job. John turned to make sure Killian was still on his way.
He’d let it go for now, but he would be keeping an eye out for the man. Something wasn’t right. John didn’t know Grace very well, but he could always tell when someone was lying.
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